Can we experience digital nature? How does it affect us and what makes a virtual experience truly immersive? This project is the middleground between a gaming experience and an immersive exhibition piece thats meant to be intuitively explored and accesible to without any prior gaming experience.
Currently it is still in its early design exploration and testing phase.
Art / Creative Direction - Steven Feigel
Programming - Steven Feigel
Sounddesign - Julien Hecker
Virtual Reality Experience
2022 - Current
Current State and Concept
The procedurally generated room is filled with everyday applicances and their dull soundscape. By interacting the player fills the sterile world with plants creates a unique and interactive musical piece.
With every mesh being assigned different plants and every plant having it's unique soundscape the musical piece changes with every iteration of the level. The sounds will be created by using electric resistance taken from real plants through an amplifier to add an organic component to this digital space.
This project is still very much at the starting point. I am still exploring ways that feel intuitive when it comes to interaction. Because of that everything used in the scene is still very rough and filled with placeholders.
Right now this project is still in the early gameplay testing and iteration phase and the specifics are still open to change depending on whats needed to enhance the experience. I want to explore ways to use Virtual Reality as an immersive and accesible medium that even players without prior gaming knowledge can navigate intuitively
The Player/exhibition visitor stands in a sterile and bleak room filled with appliances of everyday life giving the whole space a liminal and surreal corporate feeling. right in front of you is a floating mass of particles. Interacting with those sents out an impulse through the level that lets some flowers grow on the floor with a unique sound breaking the opressign silence while objects start to float.
During your first steps you notice plants growing under your footsteps and touching meshes you will be able to paint them with foliage growth.
The level will be a room filled with everyday life objects that a procedurally stacked and floating through the room to give easy acess to the player to interact with. Procedural generation offers replay value to the players wanting to relive the experience as different meshes also create different plants and with that another unique soundscape
Immersion is a key element of this experience. This means reducing any gameplay aspects that break the illusion to a minimum. Because of that picking up objects is not an obtion and the room is designed in a way that is walkable having to use teleport as little as possible.
Touching objects triggers vibrations in your controller while your handmeshes are physics based and collide with the meshes instead of following your hands completely. This combined with the haptic feedback of plants growing and deforming under your touch creates the illusion of a real collision while nothing is there Interestingly our brain does not recognize this dissonance between real hand location and the virtual hand and thus assumes thats hand is indeed still stopped at the mesh if the distance doesn't get to big.
To achieve this a system in the player pawn sents out a check to every mesh it's colliding with if it has already been interacted with. If not it will create a dynamic material with a dynamic render target texture assigned to it. every collision will record the location in UV space it's been hit and draw that onto the render target using 3 hit points to avoid UV seams. These render targets in turn get used in the dynamic material to paint a moss mask onto the mesh and spawn the niagara particle system scaling up the foliage when touched and triggering the assigned soundscape.
The player pawn also reconizes any collisions and has a dynamic physics deform applied that will slightly offset the hand if resistance is met to avoid clipping through meshes and breaking the illusion.
The Soundscape starting out will be Silence filled by irregular noises made by the Objects in the scene such as keyboard typing printer sounds etc. Interacting with meshes will trigger a soundscape during the growth process. The specific sounds will be controlled by the electric resistance taken from real plants using an amplifier. Each of those will be uniquly assigned to a plant giving each mesh with multiple specific plants on it a unique soundscape and thus turning the space into a natural concert
Early Tech Testing
These are some earlier gamedesign iterations. While painting feels the most intuitive, picking up objects or not having full control of the growth breaks the immersion and was changed.
On collision the digital hands stop instead of fully following your real hand movement and trigger a vibration. Combined with the instant feedback of sound and plantgrowth the touch feels real even without resistance in the real world.